Look At The Output, Look For The Outcome

This spring, the jury for the North American Health Effie Awards judged awards that made us laugh, evoked some tears, and a few that made us scratch our heads. Sitting among some of the best minds in health communications from across the industry, the conversation in the judging room was both educational and inspiring. To win an Effie, the work must deliver for the business. As marketing and advertising leaders, we need to understand that our advertising, regardless of medium, is a means to an end — to drive acquisition, development and retention of our target customers. Scoring high recall without the accompanying purchase intent serves little purpose outside of entertainment. 

Most importantly, those business results can help defend investment choices, as well as any unexpected surprises. Many years ago, I managed a brand of anti-dandruff shampoo at J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare (one of this year’s Health Effie winners). Our partners at Ammirati Puris Lintas developed an amazing creative campaign featuring the voice of Kelsey Grammer telling people “the Freedom will go to your head” with Nizoral-AD. One specific TV ad showed a couple in a shower together playfully shampooing each other’s hair. Although incredibly tasteful and with clearly visible (oversized!) wedding rings, over the next three months we had 88 irate callers voice their displeasure to various senior executives across the corporation.



The VP of marketing, Bill McComb, called me to his office and said we were being asked to pull the ad. Rather than simply acquiescing, I put together an analysis that showed a 16% lift in sales whenever that ad was on TV, equating to an incremental 9,000 new customers a week, a 1200:1 performance vs. complaints ratio. Although it’s not just about the business results, we really believed that the ad was not stepping over any moral lines — if we had, I would have been the first person to recommend taking it off the air. Armed with this information, Bill pushed back and, fortunately, we continued both the advertising and the business growth. The brand ended the year with two of the top three-selling SKUs in the category.

Having worked on more than a hundred campaigns, programs and events over the last 20 years, there’s many a lesson I have learned from the challenges one inevitably encounters. Today, I will leave you with four key lessons to get the most out of your work: 

1. Don’t compromise quality for deadlines or pressure from others. Make sure you’re happy with the final product. You are the final say, never forget that. Speak up or you may regret it.

2. Make sure your work achieves your desired results. Awareness, Brand Equity, Purchase – different objectives require different creative elements. Know them and use them appropriately.

3. Don’t let the creative overpower the communication. The expensive celebrity, explosive colors and memorable CGI special effects do you no good if the audience cannot remember what was being advertised. Know your target segment and make sure they are getting your message.

4. When things go wrong, know that you’re not alone — champions can fight for you and defend your decisions. Use them, but also give them what they need in terms of supporting data to be able to do so.

Above all, continue to learn — from peers, by judging or reading through award-winning cases — this insight and perspective outside of your own agency or company will help you be a more effective marketer. 

The author served on the 2016 Final Round North American Health Effie Jury.

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